Friday, June 15, 2007

Lack of Math Skills Sinks Legitimate Discussion

In an otherwise well-written piece on the lack of black coaches in college football, Olin Buchanan drops this quote by Floyd Keith, a Black Coaches Association Executive Director:
"The NFL has 32 teams and six black head coaches. That's about 20 percent, and it should be better. But that's almost three times what we have in the college ranks. We should have more in college than in the NFL. The bottom line is there is a systemic problem in the process."
Better for what reason? Because Keith wants it to be higher? On what basis does he derive his 25% number that he later claims is “adequate?”

13% of the population is African-American (according to the US census), or a little more than 1 out of 10 people. Let’s assume that coaching skills are unrelated to skin color. If the NFL has 32 teams, we should expect to see 32*0.13 = 4.16 black coaches. The NFL has 6, which is 50% higher than what we’d expect.

Presumably, Keith’s erroneous argument is predicated on the fact that because half the players are black, the percentage of black coaches should be higher. He apparently feels it should be twice as high, although I would expect (mathematically) if his thesis were true the number of black coaches should be about 50%.

But NFL coaching is the pinnacle of success, and is not predicated on being an NFL player. Since they come from the population at large, we should expect NFL coaches to reflect society as a whole, not the NFL player population.

If you go to the High School level, I would imagine that the population of High School football players reflects society at large. It is only at higher levels of play that the player population stops reflecting society at large; I leave it to someone else to determine why that is.

But it is from this initial level that prospective coaches are first introduced to the game and begin to become coaches, and it is from here that the eventual Tony Dungys and Steve Nolans come, not from the NFL or college sidelines.

So please, even though there’s little NFL news to write up, can we give the whole “not enough black NFL coaches” line a rest, already? I don’t doubt that there may be some GMs or owners who look down on black coaches because of their skin color; quite frankly, that just means that these highly qualified gentlemen are all the more available to the smarter teams.

Like usual, the end result of modern racism will end up hurting the racist more than it will the aggrieved.

[Note: I’m not addressing the actual point of the article, the disgraceful state of minority coaches in college, where the statistical gap of 5% actual to 13% expected is somewhat damning for the universities. I’m just discussing NFL coaching here, which after a long fight seems to reflect society, which was the goal in the first place.]